Jose Luis Orihuela, professor at the School of Communications at the University of Navarra (Spain), spoke in his blog about how the nature of media communications has changed since the advent of digital media.
Digital technologies create new challenges for traditional media: new formats of communication, new languages, new grammar. The digital media revolution has not only changed the communication landscape for old ones, but also lowered the barriers to entry for new players.
Businesses, fan clubs, professional communities and individuals have become independent media, sources and public critics of traditional media.
There has been a shift from the classical media model to new media paradigms: the user is part of the communication process, content is the personality of the media, multimedia is a new universal language, here and now is the only available time, hypertext is a new grammar, knowledge is new information.
1. From audience to user
In the 1980s, the merger of satellite and cable technologies allowed TV channels to deliver thematic content to specific segments of their target audience. The Internet has taken the next step towards the consumer: from narrowcasting to pointcasting.
Online content can not only meet the interests of the target audience, but also be created taking into account specific requests for each individual user.
The passive way of consuming content replaces the concept of an active user who searches for content, studies and uses the information space to his liking, independently produces content.
The communication process is closed on the consumer: he has the ability to choose, make decisions, search, customize, subscribe or unsubscribe, comment and, most importantly, write, speak and film. Self media, Nano publishing, thin media are new categories of users who decided to become even more active and start creating their own media.
2. From format to content
The focus is shifting from media formats (newspaper, magazine, radio, TV) to content that defines the media itself. National Geographic and CNN are not a special type of media, but media brands that have extensive experience in the production of certain types of content (nature and life) or experience in operational coverage of events (journalism).
Media convergence is making the image of content far more important than the media format. Brand image is becoming the most valuable asset in the media business – a source of trust. The media are beginning to understand that their business is content, not a platform.
3. From monomania to multimedia
In digital media, text, audio, video, graphics, photography, and animation can coexist organically in the same medium. The multimedia identity of the medium has united all media and erased the distinctions between different media.
Digital media is multimedia, and multimedia is a new language.
Usually it works like this: at the first stage, new media use the language and formats of traditional media, then they begin to create and develop their own, and traditional media, having lost their formal identity, begin to experiment in a new environment.
4. From periodicity to “here and now”
Regularity – the frequency of content release – was so important in the old paradigm of media communications that it was customary to divide the media into daily, weekly, monthly, and so on. There was even a special term – “periodicals”.
To be digital media (an electronic version of a daily newspaper or monthly magazine) means being updated in real time to survive in a new environment.
5. From scarcity to abundance
The number of newspaper pages, the timing of radio or TV shows no longer limit content. The most important new resource that everyone lacks is the reader’s attention.
One of the effects of active content consumption is the dissemination of information without a clear source attribution and the heterogeneous quality of the content. In a crowded information environment, new skills and tools are needed to manage data, news and opinions.
Content syndication, news aggregation, UGC, ratings, featured, lists, trends are just a few tools for navigating the information chaos.
6. From the editor to his absence
The editor is the gatekeeper.
This function needs to be revisited in connection with network decentralization. Together with the old media, other unofficial sources are becoming relevant for setting the agenda. In fact, the agenda no longer exists.
There are no editors, but there is a constant expert user assessment of the quality and comments of readers – this is the essence of modern digital media.
As a result, the agenda goes beyond the media, being created and disseminated by a huge number of new sources, most of which are non-professional media. Including through social networks, mailings, search engines, news feeds, forums, blogs, and so on.
7. From distribution to access
Distribution – delivery of content to the consumer (example: delivery of a subscription edition). Access – the ability to find content of interest to the user within the media at any time.
The paradigm of content distribution from one to many has been replaced by two new ones: access of many to one and communication of many. They came about thanks to a client-server network architecture based on user decisions.
Access is exploration, search, navigation, choice. The active position of the consumer is the desire to be a part of the system and to interact with it, as opposed to the model of passive content consumption. Bookmarks, browser start pages, social media feeds are an expression of an active way of consuming content.